Executive Insights

Rich, older South African men are buying Plan B passports in Europe in record numbers

Business Insider SA
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  • The first half of 2018 saw a huge surge in applications from South Africans looking to buy their way into second passports, mostly in Europe, numbers from an advisory company show.
  • Mostly older men are securing passports from the likes of Malta and Cyprus – with cash.
  • But they're not always looking to actually leave South Africa, says Henley & Partners.

In the first half of 2018 – after the election of Cyril Ramaphosa to replace Jacob Zuma as ANC president – it recorded a 229% year-on-year increase in applications from South Africans looking to buy their way into foreign citizenship or residency, Henley & Partners says. Henley & Partners is a global citizenship advisory firm, headquartered in London with more than 30 offices worldwide.

Some of those applications were from people who started looking into alternatives during 2017, pre Ramaphosa. But there was also a 143% year-on-year increase in enquiries about citizenship-by-investment in between January and August, Henley & Partners says.

But the majority of those people were not moving new money out of the country, nor leaving South Africa – not yet.

See also: SA passports may soon become much more desirable, this foreign expert believes

"Most of our clients were not looking to emigrate immediately, they are looking for an alternative, for an option, for if and when," says Amanda Smit, head of Henley & Partners in east, central, and southern Africa.

Those clients are acquiring passports or residency rights mostly in Malta, Cyprus, Moldova, and Portugal. Unlike traditional immediate-emigration favourites such as Australia and the United States.

About 10% of those looking for a second passport are retired, and about half the rest are self-employed, Henley & Partners numbers for 2018 to date show. 80% are older than 45, and 85% are men. But only around 55% of the applicants are white, says Smit, after a distinct increase in black, coloured, and Indian applicants recently.

The only thing they really have in common is money, it seems.

"We have two types of clients," says Smit. "The one is business people who travel a lot and who find visa restrictions extremely limiting and frustrating; they do it simply to obtain travel documents that give them greater mobility, that let them travel at short notice.

"The other type, the big majority, want a plan B because they are concerned about the economy or the political situation, worried what the education system will look like 10 years from now or if their children will be able to find work in South Africa."

Most clients already have funds offshore, Smit says, and are simply looking to exploit that money to also land a passport, rather than moving lots of cash out of SA.

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